How Does Alcohol Affect Gut Health?
Overindulging in alcohol damages a variety of bodily functions from your liver to your mental health. An often overlooked area affected by alcohol is your gut. But how exactly does alcohol affect your gut and what are the signs your gut isn’t happy with how much you’re drinking?
Alcohol and the Gut
Gut health is about more than your stomach–it can impact your mind, immune system, the risk level for certain types of cancer, and more. Basically, it’s one of the major determinants of health in your body.
When you drink alcohol, it can affect your gut health in two primary ways. First, once it’s metabolized, it will enter the small intestine and decrease intestinal permeability. This can lead to a leaky gut syndrome, a condition that can weaken your immune system and cause inflammation and weight gain.
The second way alcohol affects the body is by adding bad bacteria to the microbiome. These bad bacteria disrupt the microbiome balance and can lead to weakened immunity, mental health problems, and decreased life expectancy.
To combat both, it’s best to stop drinking alcohol entirely for a couple of months and then reintroduce it slowly. During this time, you may want to take a prebiotic and probiotic to help rebalance the microbiome.
Signs Alcohol is Affecting Your Gut Health
How do you know if your drinking habits are harming your gut? There are a couple of key signs you’re drinking too much:
- Bloating: if you feel bloated, it might be a sign that you’re drinking too much.
- Loss of appetite: people who drink often tend to do so on an empty stomach. However, alcohol on an empty stomach puts more stress on your digestive tract.
- Inflammation: heavy drinking often leads to leaky gut syndrome, a condition that can increase inflammation not only in the gut but throughout the entire body.
- Weakness: if you feel physically weak, it could be another sign that alcohol is wreaking havoc on your gut. Like increased inflammation, this is due to leaky gut syndrome as this condition weakens your immune system.
- Sickness: because of the weakened immune system, those who drink lots of alcohol might be sick more often than usual. If you’re always sick, this could be a sign to limit your alcohol consumption.
- Nausea: alcohol can upset your stomach because it adds bad bacteria to your gut. Eating a balanced diet and cutting back on how much you drink can help.
- Constipation: alcohol damage to the gut often causes constipation. To solve this, try to eat more fiber (as well as–you guessed it–limit alcohol consumption).
It’s important to note all of these signs can also be due to other underlying issues. If you experience one or more, it might be worthwhile to examine, and perhaps limit, your alcohol consumption. If symptoms persist after you scale back or stop drinking, consider consulting a medical professional.Class: What Does a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet Look Like?